10 Best Creole Restaurants in New Orleans: Where to get your Spice on
By Kristopher Neild
Palm Beach / West Palm Beach Local Expert
Luckily for Creole food lovers visiting New Orleans, the 10 Best restaurants and 10 Best Creole restaurants are often the same thing in the eyes of locals. New Orleans is the birthplace of Creole food, described as spicy and heavily seasoned dishes that often make use of a brown, gravy type sauce known as "roux".
Foods you would never hear mentioned in any other part of the world are staples here. Gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee and red beans and rice are as common to the New Orleans native as the ocean is to a swashbuckler. The description "Creole" is often used interchangeably with "Cajun", and though similar, they have differences. Creole food has a broader descendant base, while Cajun food often has strictly French influence. Both genres were formed when traditional European cooking methods were blended with the food groups and cooking methods available in the New World (Louisiana).
Food is often the main reason for people making the trip to New Orleans. Though you may be turned off by the thought of black/cayenne pepper and other spices hitting your tongue, Creole food needs to be experienced bar none. Delve into a variety of seafood etouffee, and if that hits the spot, branch out from there.
10 Antoine's Restaurant
Oysters Rockefeller originated here in 1889, and the menu hasn't changed much since. Expect rich French Creole cuisine and Gulf seafood including tasty fried oysters on buttered toast with foie gras. Local gents still wear jackets to dinner, but it's not required. Diners can enjoy choices like potato souffle or Poulet Rochambeau, a boneless half-chicken served with a sweet brown rochambeau and tangy bearnaise sauce. Their reasonably priced lunch special is a favorite among locals. Be sure to check out the bread pudding when it comes time to choose dessert. (504-581-4422)
9 Mr. B's Bistro
Mr. B's is a local favorite. Located in the French Quarter, and operated by the famous Brennan restaurant family, the venue is considered the city's original gourmet bistro. The Gumbo Ya Ya, one of the Bistro's signature dishes, is worth the trip in itself (filled with chicken and andouille sausage). Executive Chef Michelle McRaney, well-versed in Creole cuisine, prides herself in using only the freshest local ingredients. Because of this, her menu undergoes changes regularly, an act welcomed by the regular patrons. For entrees, look to the Barbequed Shrimp and Braised Rabbit, two meals which you would gladly pay double for post consumption. (504-523-2078)
8 NOLA Restaurant
This perennial hotspot is full of Lagasse specialties like Louisiana crab cakes with Creole tartar sauce, cedar plank roasted red fish, and homemade chorizo and pork chops with pecan-glazed sweet potatoes. What makes this Emeril restaurant different is the wood-burning oven gourmet pizzas. A local and tourist favorite. (504-522-6652)
7 K - Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
K-Pauls, housed in a fabulously restored European-style building in the French Quarter, is a local hot spot for Creole food. The restaurant operates with no freezers, ensuring that everything it puts in front of patrons is fresh. Grab a balcony seat and enjoy some of their famous Turtle Soup before jumping into a Creole inspired entree like the Classic Crawfish Etouffée. Being able to say you consumed turtle and crawfish in the same sitting will "wow" you're friends back home (whether that is a good or bad "wow" will depend on the friend). If post meal, you like what Chef Paul is cooking up, many of his seasonings and glazes, as well as cookbooks are available for purchase. (504-596-2530)
Mother's is the well-known Creole staple of the New Orleans foodie scene. Lines can be seen funneling into the door of this Poydras Street hot spot, hoping to catch a smell and eventually a bite of the tasty cuisine offered inside. The Gumbo and Crawfish Etouffee are what you should sample first if this is your initial foray into Creole dining. The venue offers diner style seating and atmosphere, so no need to change out of what you wore to bed. The guys from the television show, "Man vs. Food" made sure to stop here, so make sure you do too on your visit. (504-523-9656)
5 Galatoire's Restaurant
Galatoire's, located on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter neighborhood of New Orleans, likens their Creole cooking to an art form. Some of their specialties include a Shrimp Rémoulade, and a variety of entrees offered with lump crab meat that are sure to delight. This restaurant is a New Orleans institution, where day drinkers come to revel and long looks at at the menu are often frowned upon. Be ready to engage your fellow dinner goers (regulars) for recommendations on which Creole dish journey your buds will embark on. While some of the places that pre-rank Galatoire's can best them in gastronomy, they can't compete when it comes to dedication to offering their guests a complete New Orleans dining experience. (504-525-2021)
Arnaud's offers some of the Big Easy's best Creole food, and a triple threat of dining options. Enjoy soothing jazz while eating in the Jazz Bistro, a romantic dinner in the main dining room, or cocktails in the French 75 Bar. The classy joint is located just steps from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Their proprietary remoulade blend that adorns their Shrimp Arnaud and Crab Cakes is delectable and must be sampled. Arnaud's opened for business nearly a century ago, and their dedication to offering a desirable ambiance and delicious Creole food has not wavered since. (504-523-5433, 866-230-8895)
3 Upperline Restaurant
Upperline's renowned staff encourages you to get out of the French Quarter, and experience their contemporary take on Creole cuisine. The restaurant is located in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, right of the St. Charles Streetcar. The venue strives to make you feel home, but a different, potentially more comfortable dwelling. Their 3-Course dinner is very reasonably priced, and allows you to sample some of chefs top creations like the Duck & Andouille Etouffee and Drum Fish Piquant with Hot & Hot Shrimp. If you look at their online menu, you can find a good amount of their dishes have been recognized nationally as "Top" or "Best I've ever had". (504-891-9822)
2 Commander's Palace
"Dirt to plate within 100 miles", is the M.O. of head Creole chef Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace, located in the Garden District of New Orleans. He strives to have 90% of his ingredients come to his restaurant from within the aforementioned distance, showing his respect and appreciation for local farmers and produce. Start off a meal with the Wild White Shrimp Rémoulade, a Creole appetizer, before segueing into the Soft Shell Crab entree. Another option is The Peacemaker, an oyster and shrimp filled po'boy that will establish your palette's po'boy standard. The restaurant offers one of the most diverse wine selections in the city, so finding something to drink with your spicy Creole food is no issue. (504-899-8221)
1 Jacques-Imo's Cafe
Jacques-Imo's is a Creole mecca for New Orleanians, with their unforgettable "truck-turned table for two" beckoning the Oak Street foot crowd. The Shrimp Etouffee and Smothered Chicken highlight a menu of Creole favorites offered at relatively inexpensive prices compared to peers. You will also notice that, compared to peers, Jacques-Imo's has the best tasting and most diverse Creole offerings. Their specials menu, which changes often, is known for having up to and over 15 items that are all begging to be ordered. Jacques Leonardi, the chef and mastermind of this venue, is regularly on hand to engage guests and talk of his craft. (504-861-0886)
About Kristopher Neild
Kris is a South Florida resident, living close to the coast in West Palm Beach. The area provides him with plenty of golf courses to hack up, restaurants to sample and beaches to surf and sun. Plus, he can get his baseball fix with all the spring training and minor league action. Kris is also a CFA candidate, meddling in financial matters to pay the bills.
Read more about Kristopher Neild here.